Club Focus Augher St Macartans
Putting foundations for future success
This is the story of Augher St Macartans who are doing work on and off the field to build themselves back to being one of the top teams in the county, as they were in the 1980s
Changing times at Augher
Augher feel like they have made a big statement recently.
Opening their new facilities, which included state of the art changing rooms, represented an important juncture in the club’s history.
They were bringing their facilities up to a modern standard, and not only that, providing changing for both mens and women’s football, which highlights the partnership that exists between themselves and St Macartans ladies who share their ground.
It represents a statement of intent, that here is a club who are determined to return to the glory days of the 80s when they were one of the strongest clubs in the county, and won two senior championships.
It’s worth noting that the 80s started with Augher putting up the first floodlit pitch in Tyrone.
And they were the first club to run a floodlit tournament.
Those floodlit pitches provided the facilities that would prepare the club to win two championships, in 1982 and 1985.
Chairman Gerard McQuaid hopes that something similar can happen with the new changing rooms.
“We had been putting it off for years, but we finally bit the bullet. And thank god, as it’s a great job.
“A lot of work went into it, and a lot of fundraising.
“Our facilities were very rundown. A lot of people felt that we didn’t need to do the facilities, but they were very run down.
“We had looked at it ten years ago. We talked about it for years. We maybe spent 50,000 at getting different report.
“We had a very successful fundraising last year, the Oskars.
“We have a bit of debt now but we have it all fitted out.
“We have new changing rooms, shower blocks. Central heating throughout. Fully disabled toilets, and disabled access.”
Having up to date facilities means that they can run so much more at the club. They can run courses, and classes. They couldn’t do that before.
And not only sporting events. They run all sorts of events including gardening.
“They say a club is the centre of the community.
“Well now our club is part of the community.”
There next plans, or at least one of their options, is a walking track.
This would be something for the community to use to walk and keep fit, and importantly attracts those who aren’t footballers, but who can be important members.
McQuaid said: “I would say that the club is in a strong position. Success is measured on what you can provide for young people to be happy and content. Going forward I hope that we will be in stronger place again.”
Seasons To Remember
Undefeated seasons, senior championship glory, and Ulster tests
These are some of the notable seasons in Augher’s history:
The minors won the league and championship double. These teams created the foundation for senior success during the 1980s.
This was the year when they won their first senior championship. It would be the beginning of an incredible run of success.
They were hot favourites to win the Intermediate Championship. They were leading for much of the way and they lost by a point.
What was notable about that season was that both the seniors and Reserves won their leagues undefeated. They had went to the final game of the season needing a win against Owen Roes for a perfect campaign. Owen Roes had also won all their games. Both teams had filled their reserve teams with senior players. Augher won the Reserve game, but because Augher wanted to have a perfect record in the senior league, some of the reserve players would have to play a second game in the same day. They won both games, and both teams won their leagues undefeated.
They beat Moortown in the first round, and needed a replay to win. They played Derrylaughan in the quarter-final. Derrylaughan were the reigning champions. That game felt like a county final and was played in Dungannon in front of a huge crowd. The Ulster Herald had marked that one as the game of the decade. That set up a game against Killyclogher in the semi-final. They then met Dromore in the final. That was important because Augher and Dromore always had great battles in those days. They dominated that final for long periods. They lost to Castlewellan in Ulster.
They beat Carrickmore in round one of the championship. Their opponents in the 1985 Final was Gortin, who were the surprise package of the season, and had beaten a lot of fancied teams that year. Augher won the final fairly comfortably. Augher were pitted against Pearse Og in the Ulster Championship, and won against the odds. That set up an Ulster semi-final against Down champions Burren. Augher’s championship came to an and that year. Burren went on to win the All-Ireland club championship that year. Yet Augher’s run really raised their profile.
In 1985 Eugene McKenna received his Allstar award for his performances with Tyrone in 1984. That was a proud day for the club
They won the league title in 1986. Augher had finished second in the previous years. Tyrone had a successful campaign that year but lost the All-Ireland final against Dublin. All club football had been put on hold. But in the week after Tyrone lost to Dublin, football resumed and Augher met Ballygawley, as they were known then (Errigal Ciaran). Had it been any other team, because they were neighbours, Augher fielded a strong team, and won the match. They then went on a six-game winning streak that led to them being one game away from the league title. Dromore were playing Trillick. Augher needed to win to win outright, but if they drew then they needed a draw in the Dromore Trilick match. Dessie McKenna and Paul Connolly had huge games that day. Augher drew then someone rushed to ring to here what happened between Dromore and Trillick. When the news came through that Dromore and Trillick had drawn, celebrations started.
Macartans started a ladies football team. The ladies club is separate to the mens club. It has players from Augher, Cloghr and Eskra. They are based in Augher, and have been very successful.
The club were relegated out of Intermediate level in 2007 which was a frustating blow for the club. But Tyrone changed the league structures at that stage. Tyrone went from four leagues of 12 to three 16 team leagues. They were perhaps a bit strong to be in Junior. They won the championship and went straight back up.
Amalgamations grow success
Augher joined together with their neighbours Clogher at underage level in 2011 in order to help bring forward players for the senior team.
Aidan McElroy is the childrens officer, and he works with Conor Hackett the coaching officer.
They work jointly as the children’s officer.
He says that the project has worked well. They are amalgamated from u-14 up to minor.
At the time it happened. They only had 53 players under the age of 18 in the whole club. That was there to field from u-10s through to minors.
“It was just a matter of survival,” McElroy said.
“It has its benefits. It has got every Augher player for the last eight or nine years. So it has been beneficial that way.”
Even with both clubs amalgamating numbers can still be low.
But both clubs understand how crucial the practice is.
“We are breeding the next generation of senior players. You want to keep that pushing on. Augher has a real good tradition. You can’t let that die.
“Even if you can get two or three players through to senior football, that will sustain you for a long time.”
The last underage success the club experienced was over a decade ago.
The senior team that is currently in place, is built around that minor success when Fergal McCann and Tony Donnelly took the underage team.
McElroy was on that team.
“We are trying to give the players that are coming up now the chances that we got. We won the junior championship in 2008 and that group of youth came up through. It shows that youth coaching works. That’s why we would be pushing to go with the youth coaching.”
Their main focus at the moment is for their youth players to keep playing, and to keep enjoying their football. That’s the main priority.
“If you win trophies that is a massive benefit. The main thing is getting boys through who want to play senior football.
“We want to get enjoyment into the football. We want to get the players an appetite for football.”
They have another plan for getting that appetite.
“We want to get more parents involved. We think that parents really drive the club. If it is not coming from the parents, or from the home then it is hard. We only see them one or two hours a week. So the parents really help.”
Another aspect of the club that has been very successful is the Campa Mhic Artain. That is the Irish language sport and culture summer camp.
It was an initiative that some of the young people in the club came up with.
The camp has run for the past two years and has provided an outlet for those who want to promote our culture.
They had 90 in the first year and over 150 there last year. It might not run this year because of Coronavirus, but it will be back because it was so successful.
They had children from 6-14 years of age in the first year. Then they cut it back to 6-11 in the second year and increased the numbers. They had participants from Eskra and Errigal and surrounding areas.
They are hoping to have the course again when they can as the interest is there.
Promotion in 2012
A big day in the club’s history was the day they were promoted to senior football. They finished sixth in the league. They decided to make a push to try and win the third place in the promotion places. They won through to play Edendork in Carrickmore. They won that game and it got them back to senior football. None of that team had ever played senior football, so it was important.
Hope for footballing future
The club had a new manager in place this year, Padraig O’Kane from the Loup.
He had been managing Truagh in Monaghan the previous season.
According to Aidan McElroy, who is one of the more senior players on the team, things had been going well before the lock down.
“We are in a good place.
“We are trying to make the best with the numbers that we have. I do believe we are putting good structures in place with what we have. Our team is getting older. But if we can get one or two players through each year then that will help.”
Oskars night success
Last year the club had a remarkable success when running the club’s Oskars.
They needed a fundraiser to help fund the new changing facilities, and upgrade to their grounds.
Some of the members brought the idea of the Oskars to the chairman, and they agreed to go ahead with it.
“I saw a DVD of other clubs doing the Oskars, and I thought it was a great idea.
“We set up a sub committee. It went from there. We had enrolments nights. We had over 80 actors from the local area.”
The uptake on it was remarkable.
“We had people from all sides of the community taking part. We are a small parish, and there are two clubs in the parish. We are working. We had a lot of people who were not involved in the club who got involved and who stayed involved and want to do another project with the club.”
Kevin Rowe events ran the project.
Augher can boast that of all the shows that Rowe did, Augher was the only one that had all live singing.
“A lot of the time it is recorded songs. But all ours was live. It was a great success. We had over 700 at the night at the Hillgrove.”
They spread the fundraising out across other clubs like Eskra, Errigal Ciaran and Truagh. The fundraising helped them finish their facilities.
“It was a community effort, not just a club effort.
“I said it was the greatest health and well being event that the club had ever run.”
Growing interest in the GAA
One of the impressive measures that the club has undertaken is to set up a polytunnel next to their facilities and encourage their members to grow things.
The project is headed up by Geraldine McElroy, a keen gardener herself, who saw horticulture as a chance to provide an outlet for those who can’t pick up a ball anymore, but who could handle a trowel.
“I would see it as a health and wellbeing project for the non-playing members of our club.
“We started five years ago in the community garden.
“There was a space in the garden that wasn’t being used. We planted a wildflower patch, and an orchard. It showed that the club was more than just your first 15.
“It showed that the club could offer an activity that the community could get involved in under the banner of health and wellbeing.”
The group have a polytunnel and they grow salads, carrots, kale. They have a vine and grow grapes in the tunnel. They are planting tomatoes at the moment.
They developed further and applied for funding to get a mens shed. Mens shed is a programme that encourages social interaction for men, in order to combat loneliness among the older generations.
It is only going for a year, but both projects offer outlets for those who sometimes forgotten by society.
What the club has found that the projects have cross community interest.
“It is a new skills and intersts that has brought people together.
“Numbers have grown slowly.”
McElroy has found that age is no boundary for the project.
“We have had a number of young families get involved this year.
“They have been dropping off children for training. Instead of going home they come into the garden for an hour on a Saturday.”
The activities have all but ceased at the moment because of the Covid lockdown, but there are a few of them who go out and make sure that the plants are still watered.
Social farms and community gardens contacted them to put down a lockdown project. 15 families contacted the group, and they provided them with compost and a growing pack to get them started. That has went out this week.
“It’s just to keep them occupied.”